Monday, September 03, 2012

Two albums by Cornershop

Cornershop & The Double 'O' Groove Of
Cornershop Urban Turban - The Singhles Club

Cornershop might just be my favourite band of the last twenty years. They are inventive and playful and they have never had the kind of slide into shite of some other false prophets of the period. And they have kept going too. This may be a surprise to many people who perhaps only know them from when they started (a period when they achieved a surprising amount of notice in the music press) and then their relatively brief period of mainstream success, around the time when 'Brimful of Asha' was number one in the single charts (partly thanks to Norman Cook speeding it up and adding a shuffle beat - it was a more innocent age). Since then they have continued to plug away, releasing some great music that has sadly failed to make much connection with Joe Public.

These two records are Cornershop's most recent albums. The Double O Groove Of (from 2011) sees Cornershop joined by a British Indian woman, Ms Bubbley Kaur. She sings all the songs on this record and may also write all or some of the lyrics. They are mostly in Punjabi (or similar) so to me they are largely incomprehensible. This is not a problem for me as I am not much of a lyrics man. As with most Cornershop records, the album features a collision of South Asian and British/American influences, so you might get a track with hip hop inflections on which the main percussion sounds are coming from tablas. Or something else entirely. While Cornershop are always a bit experimental, they have their sound, and Ms Kaur's guest turn on vocals has not seen this record move away the rambley approach to music that I love from them.

Urban Turban might be a compilation of bits and pieces released on Cornershop's own label. Or maybe it is not. On this one we bid farewell to Bubbley Kaur. But it does not see a return to Tjinder Singh doing all the vocals. Although he does some, there are an army of guests doing the singing on tracks here - Izzy, Celeste, Katie, Rajwant, Kay Kwong, Amar, Lorraine, among others. I have no idea who these people are. It would be nice to think that Cornershop did not either, that they were just randomers who showed up in the studio when the album was being recorded (didn't Brian Eno recently do an album on this basis?) though they seem a bit too talented for that to be the case.

In broad terms this record still follows the broad Cornershop template, though that still means the music you get here is as varied as on a compilation album. A couple of tracks stand out. The opener, 'What Did The Hippy Have In His Bag?' sees Singh joined on vocals by a load of primary school children. It does not go all Langley Schools Music Project on us - the little angels seem mainly to just laugh at Singh's funny stories and lend enthusiastic backing vocals on the chorus. 'Who's Gonna Lite It Up?', with lead vocals by Izzy, is a monster of a strung out rock tune, something I could imagine being covered by Oneida, if they did covers. And 'Something Makes You Feel' (with vocals by SoKo) has almost the platonic ideal of the patent Cornershop chug-a-lug stoner groove. And 'Dedicated' (with vocals from Lorraine) is a wonderful disco-influenced electronic confection.

I have said more here about Urban Turban, and I suppose it would be correct that I like it the more of these two records. That is not really to knock The Double O or Bubbley Kaur's contribution, but if there was a competition between these records Urban Turban would shave it. But, hey, there should be room in everyone's life for both. They work very well together.

Double O Groove cover image

An inuit panda production


Smartipants said...

I am a big fan of them. I saw them at the paradise in amsterdam in the small room with a sitar player!

ian said...

I love their eclecticism, the way you can never tell what you will get with one of their shows or records.